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Computer networks What are they, what are they for and what are the most commonly used types of networks?
Definition of telecommunication networks
Today, telecommunications move the world in many ways. Although many do not know what they are, they are used daily for various everyday tasks that are indispensable in the modern world we know today. In that sense, computer networks play a fundamental role since many are the basis of communications worldwide.
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What are networks in computing? Definition and meaning
Computer networks are the network of elements that communicate with each other, in a wired or wireless way, to create a system of information exchange at short or long distance. These networks are not very different from human communication systems, since they are also composed of an emitter, a receiver, a message and a channel through which the latter is transmitted.
It could be said that these are the way in which machines communicate with each other through software or hardware to jointly execute a series of processes that are necessary to execute an action. Everything you do, even the slightest click on your computer, generates a message and therefore a response from the system, which allows the desired task to be performed later.
Computer networks are the basis of the digital world we know today; from the connections between one computer or several, to the Internet itself, which is a huge worldwide network that can connect all the computers in the world in a short time. You will understand then that this concept is indispensable for the functioning of the world as we know it today.
How many types of computer networks exist?
Throughout history, different types of computer networks have been developed, whose main objective has been to speed up the communication process between computers. The most important types that we can rescue will be mentioned below.
Local Area Networks are those that connect two or more computers in the same specific geographic location, usually within the same computer system.
While these have a clear limitation in scope, they can be faster and more stable than other systems, in addition to being able to support up to 1000 users on the same network. An example of these are those we can find in the departments of a company, or in a cyber cafe to play alCounter Strike.
Wide Area Networks (WANs) are those that are created from the union of several local networks (LANs) for effective communication between them. These are used by companies to connect their databases between one franchise and another, even if they are in different cities or countries, as well as by Internet providers to establish the access points of your connection. This is why your router has a WAN cable input.
Metropolitan Area Networks (MAN) are those that allow high-speed communication between several local or wide area networks. They are used to provide broadband due to their high speed for voice, image and data transmission of all kinds. They are characterized by allowing the integration of several networks in a wide geographical area, and can reach speeds of up to 10 MBPS with copper pairs and up to 10GB with fiber optics.
Wireles Local Area Networks are those LANs that can be created from wireless remote signal connections. When you make the LAN connection through a WiFi router you are turning the network into a WLAN.
Like the previous one, these are just a wireless version of the MAN networks, which can reach very acceptable speeds with the difference that the connection between the devices is made without the need to use any kind of cables.
The Personal Area Networks are those that compose a communication system between the devices of the same user. In this way, a person can modify or manage aspects of all their equipment from a single one.
The Body Area Network, called BAN, is a type of network used by small, low-powered devices that we use in our bodies to communicate. Thus, we deduce that they are the ones that have the least range
The devices that use it are headphones, visors, microphones, intelligent watches, smartphones, glasses, nanobots, telematic bracelets… Those that are implanted and used for medical purposes such as hearing aids, valves or pacemakers also use BANs.
Storage Area Networks are those dedicated to creating a storage system that can be accessed to obtain certain information. These are used as databases so that large companies can have greater control of their resources and all the equipment that makes up the company has access to it. These in turn can contain other types of networks such as WAN or MAN to speed up the speed of data transmission.
A campus area network or CAN refers to a network that connects several LANs in a specific geographic space. Its concept is very similar to that of the metropolitan area network, but the latter is much broader.
To understand it graphically, imagine the LAN as a residential complex, the CAN network would be the sector of the city in which this complex is located and the metropolitan network would be the entire city.
VPN stands for “virtual private network”. This refers to a computer network technology whose main feature is to serve as a secure extension to a LAN that is on another uncontrolled network.
In this way, a computer connected to this network will be able to send and receive information about other networks, whether public or shared, in the same way as if it were part of a private network, including its management policies, security and functionality.
Types of computer network topologies, their advantages, disadvantages and examples
Network topology is the architecture by which networks are designed to transmit data from one computer to another. In other words, it is the whole network of processes that make up the network as such. This term includes both the physical composition (the cables and hardware) and the logical composition (the internal processes) of the network.
Each of the networks mentioned above has its own topology, which is adapted according to the needs of the network. However, they can also be designed with different topologies according to the needs of the network.
Many people think that this is a new technology that is revolutionizing the world, but the truth is that it is the oldest and most basic network topology in the world. It is known as P2P or point-to-point networks, the one that connects one point to another. Yes, as simple as it sounds. However, this concept is essential for telephone communications today. In fact, it is so important that the other known topologies are a derivative of it.
A clear example of this type of network would be the one achieved by connecting two metal cups with a wire. That’s right, when you do this you are creating a P2P network in which each of the ends can be both transmitter and receiver.
This is a topology based on a PtP network with the difference that it tries to create a permanent link between both points, creating a constant communication flow. An example of this would be a telephone in a department of a large company that can be directly connected to that of another department, creating at that moment a stable connection in which both can be receiver-transmitters at the same time.
Switched networks are the most basic form of conventional telephone communication. This is nothing more than a dynamic P2P network that is activated at the moment of data transmission (when calling) and deactivated when it ends (when hanging up the call).
These use the same concept as the previous ones with the difference that they can transmit both audio and video data. An example of these would be the video calls that we can make through platforms such as Skype, Facebook, Hangouts and similar.
> In star
This topology is characterized by supporting data transmission in a central node to which the other nodes of the network are connected, each of them being able to obtain information from this one by one or all at once.
The advantage of this architecture is that a more stable network is achieved and the margin of error is reduced, since in case one of the secondary nodes fails, the others will be able to continue operating without any problem. In addition, it also allows you to add new equipment to the network more easily.
The disadvantage of this system is that the entire weight of communications and information traffic falls on a central node, which must always be operational for the network to remain functional. An example of this architecture can be seen in LANs, which are characterized by having a switch connected to a switch that transmits the information to the other nodes.
> In tree
Architecture in tree is one of the most used nowadays. Like the previous one, this one starts in a main transmitter node that branches out as more nodes are added to the whole network. The difference between one and another is that the central node function can be distributed among several network members, which makes it more stable and reliable because in case one of these fails, there will always be more than one backup to execute the functions of this one.
The tree architecture is used to connect different topologies in a single larger network, so that it can contain switched, star, converged and bus networks. The only drawback with this is that if a node fails, it is completely isolated and if this is a main node, all the branching off it is isolated.
Computer network or telecommunications protocols What are they and what characteristics do they have?
Another fundamental aspect of computer networks are the network protocols. These are a series of parameters that must be met for communication between network nodes to be effective. These parameters are governed by what is known as OSI layers, which are part of the model of the same name that ISO established in 1970 for network connections.
This model consists of 7 layers that are made up of individual protocols that interact with each other to make network communication effective. However, the user only interacts with 2 of them; the physical one and the application one, which are in the first and seventh layer respectively.
Talking about all the Internet protocols would be very extensive, so we will mention the seven layers and their main function without going into detail about the protocols that compose them as well as the IP address among others. Without a doubt, the new IPv6 protocol will give us plenty to talk about. One of the ones that is always present when you use the Internet is the TCP/IP protocol.
Layer 1: physical level
It is in charge of providing the physical means for the execution of the network processes. This is the one in charge of preparing the data for its later transmission to the other layers of the system as such. It initiates the entire data exchange since it offers services to the data link layer so that it can later do the same with the network layer.
Layer 2: data link
This is the one in charge of guaranteeing the reliability of data transmission, using the services of layer 1 to provide them later to the network layer that is in the next level. To put it in English, once the user executes an order at the physical level, it verifies the information and then sends it to the network as such.
Layer 3: network level
This is the level that provides the necessary connectivity for the data executed on the physical level and verified in the data link to reach its destination. However, this is not the final level but is responsible for sending the information to the next level (transport) so that they begin their long journey to the final application layer.
Layer 4: transport level
As its name says, this is the person responsible for initiating the transport of the data to reach its destination. He must guarantee that there will be no errors from the moment they reach him until they are delivered to the application level.
Layer 5: Session Level
This level is responsible for using the transport level data to initiate interaction between the various devices that make up the network. This is the only one of all levels that in most cases is perfectly dispensable since it does not verify the information, but rather it passes through it without any major repercussion.
Layer 6: presentation level
This level is very important since it is the one in charge of transforming the original information, which is transmitted in binary code, into data understandable by the different devices. In this way, it converts the original message and represents it in characters, numbers and other elements.
Layer 7: application level
This is the last level that takes care of applying the data sent by the physical level. This transmits them to the final applications so that the message can be executed.
Now, to translate all this and make you understand it, you must see it as follows. In the physical level, the message starts, then it is verified by the level 2 for its later sending to the network level, which in turn will send it to the transport level, so that later in the session level the different devices that allow the network to work are activated. These data are then interpreted by the presentation level so that they finally reach the application level.
What are the most common types of network devices?
All the layers of the OSI protocol that we exposed previously can only work thanks to diverse physical equipment that makes the connection to the network possible. Below, you will learn which are the most common and indispensable for a computer network to be created.
It can also be a cell phone. This is the device with which the user has the most interaction and is the one that generally initiates the entire network process at level 1 (Physical Level). From it, the input data are loaded, which will later be verified at layer 2.
This is an electronic device that operates on layer 2 (data link) and is in charge of verifying the information provided by the computer on level 1. It is indispensable because it is in charge of switching two or more segments of the computer network, and is responsible for sending the information to level 3 (server).
This is the most important device since it is the one that initiates the interconnection of the whole network, being responsible for completely governing the layer 3. In the event of a failure of this hardware, the entire connection is damaged.
Known as a modulator, this device is mainly responsible for modulating and demodulating a carrier signal with another modulator. This is an indispensable complement to establish the connection between network devices.
The server is not a device, but an application or program that is responsible for providing service to clients (network nodes). This is where the vast majority of the processes of layers 4, 5 and 6 are executed.
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